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CicadaWatch 2024™


Cicadas are fascinating insects known for their loud, distinctive calls and unique life cycles. With over 3,000 species worldwide, cicadas capture the curiosity of entomologists and nature enthusiasts alike. In this blog post, we’ll explore the biology of cicadas, their intriguing behaviors, and some fun facts that make them truly remarkable.

The Biology of Cicadas

Life Cycle

Cicadas have one of the most unique life cycles in the insect world. Their life-cycle consists of three stages: egg, nymph, and adult.

  • Egg Stage: Female cicadas lay their eggs in tree branches. After a few weeks, the eggs hatch, and tiny nymphs fall to the ground.
  • Nymph Stage: The nymphs burrow into the soil, where they will spend most of their lives. Depending on the species, this stage can last anywhere from two to seventeen years. During this time, nymphs fall to the ground.
  • Adult Stage: When the nymphs are ready to emerge, they dig their way out of the soil, climb onto trees, and molt one final time to become adults. Adult cicadas live for about four to six weeks, during which they mate and lay eggs to start the cycle new.
Above ground Cicada Lifecycle

Physical Characteristics

Cicadas are easily recognizable by their stout bodies, broad heads, and clear wings. They typically measure between 1 to 2 inches in length. Their prominent eyes and distinctive wings with visible veins add to their striking appearance.

Sound Production

One of the most fascinating aspects of cicadas is their ability to produce loud sounds. Male cicadas have specialized structures called tymbals located on their abdomens. By rapidly vibrating these tymbals, they create the iconic buzzing sound used to attract females. Different species have unique calls, allowing them to communicate and find mates within their own kind.

Fun Facts About Cicadas

Periodical Cicadas

Some cicada species, known as periodical cicadas, have incredibly synchronized emergence patterns. For example, in North America, there are 13-year and 17-year cicadas. Entire broods emerge simultaneously after spending over a decade underground, resulting in a spectacular and noisy event.

Cicada Shells

After molting, cicadas leave behind their exoskeletons, which can often be found clinging to tree trunks and branches. These empty shells provide a fascinating glimpse into their transformation process from nymph to adult.

Predators and Defense Mechanisms

Despite their large numbers during emergence, cicadas face numerous predators, including birds, mammals, reptiles, and even other insects. To defend themselves, cicadas rely on their sheer numbers (predator satiation) and their ability to fly away quickly. Some cicadas also have the ability to produce a loud distress call when caught, which can startle predators and give them a chance to escape.

Cicadas in Culture

Cicadas have been featured in various cultures throughout history. In ancient China, cicadas symbolized rebirth and immortality due to their life cycle involving long periods underground followed by emergence. In Japanese culture, the cicada is seen as a symbol of summer and is often depicted in art and literature.

Cicada Japan Art

Kitagawa Utamaro (Japanese, 1753?–1806)
Grasshopper (Kirigirisu); Cicada (Semi), from the Picture Book of Crawling Creatures (Ehon mushi erami) , 1788
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868)
Page from woodblock-printed book; ink and color on paper; 10 1/2 x 7 1/4 in. (26.7 x 18.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1918 (JP1055)

Cicadas are truly remarkable insects with their unique life cycles, loud calls, and fascinating behaviors. Understanding the biology of cicadas not only provides insight into their role in the ecosystem but also highlights the wonders of nature. Whether you’re marveling at their synchronized emergences or simply enjoying their summer serenades, cicadas offer a glimpse into the intricate world of insects that few other creatures can match.

If you have any questions about what this emergence means for your trees, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Homer Tree Care.

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